What Is Mental Health?

Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioural and emotional well-being. It is about how people think, feel and behave. Mental health can affect daily living, relationships and physical health. It can also affect factors in people’s lives and interpersonal connections. Physical factors can also contribute to mental health.

Conditions such as stress, depression and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine. Although the term mental health is commonly used, many conditions recognized as psychological disorders have physical manifestations.

The WHO says that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. Mental health includes looking after ongoing wellness and happiness. They emphasize that preserving and restoring mental health is important for individuals, communities and societies all over the world.

Common Mental Health Disorders

Anxiety Disorders
This is the most common type of mental illness. People with these conditions have severe fear or anxiety that relates to certain objects or situations. People with an anxiety disorder will try to avoid exposure to whatever triggers their anxiety. Examples of anxiety disorders include:

• Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
It is defined as disproportionate worry that disrupts everyday living. People might also experience physical symptoms including restlessness, fatigue, tense muscles or interrupted sleep.
• Panic Disorders
People with panic disorders experience regular panic attacks, which involve sudden, overwhelming terror or a sense of imminent disaster and death.
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with OCD have obsessions and compulsions. In other words, they experience constant, stressful thoughts and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts, such as hand washing.
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a deeply stressful or traumatic event. During this type of event, the person thinks that their life or other people’s lives are in danger. They may feel afraid or that they have no control over what is happening.

Mood Disorders

People with these conditions have significant changes in mood. Examples of mood disorders include:

• Major Depression
An individual with major depression experiences a constant low mood and loses interest in activities and events that they previously enjoyed. They can feel prolonged periods of sadness or extreme sadness.
• Bipolar Disorder
A person with bipolar disorder experiences unusual changes in their mood, energy levels, levels of activity and ability to continue with daily life. Periods of high mood are known as manic phases, while depressive phases relate to low mood.
• Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Reduced daylight during the autumn, winter and early spring months may trigger this type of depression.


There are various methods for managing mental health problems. Treatment is highly individualistic and what works for one person may not work for another. Some strategies or treatments are more successful in combination with others. A person living with a chronic mental disorder may choose different options at various stages in their life. Treatment can include:

• Psychotherapy, or Talking Therapies
This type of treatment takes a psychological approach to treating mental illness. Cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy are examples. Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and some primary care physicians carry out this type of treatment. It can help people understand the root of their mental illness and start to work on more healthy patterns that support everyday living and reduce the risk of isolation and self-harm.
• Medication
Some people take medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and anxiolytic drugs. While these cannot cure mental disorders, medications can improve symptoms and help a person resume social interaction and a normal routine while they work on their mental health. Some of these medications work by boosting the body’s absorption of feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin, from the brain. Other drugs either boost the overall levels of these chemicals or prevent their degradation or destruction.
• Self-Help
A person coping with mental illness will usually need to make changes to their lifestyle to facilitate wellness. Such changes can include reducing alcohol intake, sleeping more, and eating a well-balanced nutrition diet. People may need to take time off work or resolve issues with personal relationships that may be causing damage to their mental health. People with anxiety or depression may benefit from relaxation techniques, which include deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness.